After a premiere that established the series’ premise and a second episode that expanded on its many themes, Westworld begins to find its pacing in episode three, “The Stray“. As the hosts continue to act erratically, the team behind the park work to find out what’s causing the behavior. Last week, Dr. Ford expressed his concern that the problem may be sabotage. This week, we discover just who might be undermining the good doctor’s work with some changes of his own.
Westworld gives viewers three very distinct viewpoints for the park. We follow the guests as they experience the park in all of its myriad wonder and horror. We follow those who work behind the scenes, ensuring the guests get the best experience possible. Finally, we follow the hosts, whose understanding of the park is far removed from reality. By giving these separate ways of seeing the park, questions about morality, the nature of artificial intelligence, and more are more clearly fleshed out than in other shows with a definitive right and wrong.
One of the guests the show has been following is William, who is visiting Westworld for the first time along with his brother-in-law, Logan. Logan enjoys the most salacious parts of Westworld, while William is looking for something more. He finds it in a bounty hunt for a killer. He has reservations about the hosts, however, when he realizes that Clementine feels genuine fear during a shootout, Logan reassures him that the hosts’ emotions are there for the guests’ pleasure. William is clearly put off by it.
The episode also introduces a new guest to the park, played by Bojana Novakovic. We don’t learn her name, but she fights alongside James Marsden’s Teddy in a new plot Dr. Ford has hatched. Ford decides to give Teddy an actual backstory, as his “mysterious past” was left blank due to laziness. Teddy takes up arms to find a new villain, Wyatt, and the new female guest joins him.
Behind the scenes in the park, Dr. Ford is hard at work for his new story. The board of directors is concerned about his ability to create a new plot in the 11th hour, and Head of Quality Assurance, Theresa, questions Bernard about it. Bernard is secretly involved in his own schemes, including continued conversations with Dolores. After speaking with her about the nature of her existence last week, he continues in the same vein. He has her read from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He asks her about change, about her understanding of her world. After each session, he reminds her not to tell anyone about their conversations.
Dolores is clearly starting to think for herself and question Westworld. She gets frustrated with Teddy when he tells her that they will go south together “someday”. He tries to teach her to shoot, and she is unable to pull the trigger, despite the fact that they are only shooting at some wooden planks. Throughout the episode, she has flashes of memory to other times, other scenarios. She remembers the Man in Black taking her to the barn to rape her. She remembers Teddy lying dead. She remembers the face of her father, despite the fact that another face now takes its place.
If these flashes of memory are contagious, then Dolores definitely infected Maeve last week when she repeated the quote her father told her: “These violent delights have violent ends.” Maeve is working the bar, as usual, when Teddy comes in and pays her after he handcuffs a dead body to the porch. She sees his face and remembers, briefly, seeing him dead and naked in the underground facility. Her horror is apparent – she’s beginning to figure out that there is something very wrong with her life. This is not a dream she can wake up from by counting to three.
Another host, the titular “stray”, also seems to have ideas of his own. He wanders away from a campsite and gets trapped in a small cavern. Elsie and Stubbs go on a search for him, and Stubbs rappels to retrieve him after Elsie puts the host in sleep mode. He begins to saw off the host’s head, but the host wakes up and escapes the ravine. He grabs a boulder and looks like he is about to kill Elsie, but instead he smashes in his own head. It’s grotesque and hints at the idea that the hosts who have discovered the truth might want to stop existing altogether.
Dolores, for her part, doesn’t want to forget. Bernard asks her if she would like to have her memories of their conversations wiped clean, but she says no. She wants to change, to evolve and understand who she is. When she asks Bernard if she’s made a mistake, he tells her that all evolution begins with a mistake, so she’s in good company.
What Bernard doesn’t understand is that he’s also making Dolores more capable of killing by allowing her to remember and think for herself. When one of the villainous hosts takes her into the barn with ill intent, she finds her pistol in the haystack and shoots him dead. Terrified, she rides away and into the arms of William, who is out camping with Logan on his search for the bandit. Will William become her surrogate Teddy, now that he has a new backstory? Perhaps Dolores needs to find love with someone capable of understanding her troubles, which Teddy clearly cannot. Whatever the case, Westworld is going to continue to get bloodier as the hosts come to terms with being slaves to death and destruction.
- The chats between Dolores and Bernard are fantastic. She asks him about his son at one point, and he uses her programming to find out why she asked. She tells him that it was a way to ingratiate herself with him — she is programmed to understand human desire, after all. Later, when he asks her why she said something, she replies with “I don’t know”, further showing her progress as a sentient being.
- Likewise, the chat between Dr. Ford and Teddy is interesting, because Teddy is clearly still all programming. He doesn’t try to process the same way Dolores does and accepts his new storyline without any hesitation.
- Maeve and Dolores’ brief flashes of memory allow insight into their experience and are at once horrifying and fascinating.